A heartbroken Australian influencer who "just wanted to hold a monkey" is now urging other unaware travellers to spot signs of animal abuse at tourist attractions after being horrified by what she experienced while on a recent holiday.
While travelling in Phuket, Thailand with her partner, NSW singer Rory Eliza attended what is called the 'Phuket Monkey School' on Tripadvisor, only to walk out in "absolute tears".
"In Australia we don't have monkeys and all I really wanted to do was hold a monkey," she said in the TikTok, which has amassed more than 1.1 million views.
"We asked a travel guide where can we hold a monkey and they were really iffy about it, they kind of avoided the question. So we went to another one and we found a place."
Revealing that the organisers were strict on people only entering after they had paid, the woman said she did not expect the monkeys to be chained up and terrified when she walked in.
"The horror on my face when I walked in to see all those monkeys... it's so cruel," she tearfully said. I held this baby monkey in my arms and the thing was absolutely petrified.
"Every time the guy came to take the baby monkey off me, the baby just sat there, screaming and hissing and every time he pulled the chain around this baby's neck, the baby would hug me tighter.
"If you're in Phuket, don't pay for this, don't support this, I wish I knew before I walked in because I spent money supporting this cruelty."
Animal cruelty against primates 'well-documented' in Thailand
Like Rory, who admits she was "uneducated"on the topic, many innocently want a nice animal experience while travelling.
"Many Australians would identify themselves as huge nature and animal lovers, and these venues take advantage of this interest in animals," Elise Burgess from global animal welfare agency Four PAWS Australia told Yahoo News Australia. "Often these venues will be behind closed doors, so you do not know what will be inside until you have paid your entrance fee."
"There is well-documented cruelty of primates across Thailand for tourist entertainment, including orangutangs kept in tiny cages, dressed up in costumes and forced to box each other in a boxing ring, and monkeys forced to ride bicycles or dance with tight chains around their necks.
She added that animals are "usually sedated or psychologically beaten down" to perform "unnatural acts against their instincts".
The 'golden rule' to follow with wild animal experiences
By taking preventative measures like "doing your research", Head of Campaigns at World Animal Protection, Suzanne Milthorpe said travellers can "avoid contributing to wildlife exploitation" and help "stop cruelty like this".
"The golden rule to follow is if you can hold, touch, or ride a wild animal, it has likely experienced some form of cruelty to make it submissive enough to allow for human interaction," she told Yahoo News Australia.
“Thailand’s National Parks are home to a range of unique wildlife, so if you’re looking for a special wildlife experience while on holiday, see them in the wild, where they belong," she said.
Following Rory's TikTok, Tripadvisor has temporarily suspended new reviews on the 'Phuket Monkey School' page "due to a recent event that has attracted media attention and has caused an influx of review submissions that do not describe a first-hand experience".
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